O LORD, are not your eyes on the truth? you have stricken them, but they have not grieved; you have consumed them…
I. THE FACT THAT GOD'S CHASTISEMENTS ARE THWARTED. The chastisements are evidently indicated as severe, and the reason of the severity is hinted in the [preliminary question. God is looking for truth, looking for it in the midst of oaths broken and despised. He looks for faithfulness in all the ways in which it can be shown, There must be correspondence between promises and performances; there must be stability of character; the character must be such that men will be the same out of sight as in sight, working as ever in the Great Taskmaster's eye. Moreover, God cannot be put off by the most plausible appearance of fidelity; he knows always whether the heart is steadfast in its affection and zeal. And thus seeing all this insincerity among his people, this carelessness about truth, he chastises them to make them feel their wrong, attend to his will, and alter their deceiving ways so as to correspond with it. They are told beforehand what is coming, and the very instrument of chastisement is displayed before them. They had no ground for saying, "Suffering came upon us, and we knew not why it came." We know that Jeremiah's words must have been very pungent and irritating, and the irritating element was just this, that he persistently spoke of conquest, desolation, and exile as lying in the immediate future for his fellow-country. men. And here Jeremiah, with the prophet's melancholy privilege, sets forth the future as present. The stroke has fallen; the suffering, the loss, the humiliation, is keen; but there is no understanding in the mind, and no sign of repentance and return. Their faces are harder than the rock. If some sculptor could put into a marble face all that outwardly marks the stubborn mind that would be the expression of Israel now towards Jehovah. No subdued look in the eye; no irrepressible quivering of the lips preliminary to saying, "Father, I have sinned... and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (Jeremiah 3:4).
II. THE REASON WHICH THE PROPHET ADVANCES FOR THIS STUBBORNNESS. Remember what we have said already - and let it be said again, for it is essential to a right understanding of the passage - that the purpose of the chastisement was distinctly set forth beforehand. The people had not to grope in the dark as to the reason of their suffering. There was no room for disputing, if only Jeremiah were accepted as indeed a prophet of Jehovah. And to Jeremiah himself the intention of the chastisement was, of course, plain by the very clearest light. And, since it is natural for us to suspect that what is plain to us should be plain to others, Jeremiah could see only one reason for this distressing want of recipiency. Those who are so stubborn he thinks can be but a part of Israel, the poor and foolish, the degraded, brutalized residuum of the nation. Thus Jeremiah illustrates, by this interposed conjecture of his, a very common and perilous tendency among thinking men. We may not be unwilling - indeed, we may only be too eager - to admit the degradation of a large part of mankind, and their stolid indifference to all that is noble, refined, and truly humane. But then, on the other hand, there is an excessive exaltation of the natural man. Genius, intellect, success in research and discovery, such as that of a Newton and a Faraday - these are glorified beyond their due. It is forgotten that while men have natural powers whereby they can climb very high, they must come to God in humility and ask for wings of faith if they are to discover the highest kind of truth, the truth to which man must soar rather than climb. Jeremiah reckons that what he certainly cannot find in some he will assuredly find in others. He will turn away from the ignorant rabble, and go to the men of substance, the men with responsibility, such, doubtless, as the king and the princes, the priests and the prophets. But he goes only to fail only to discover that the wise men of this world are as little disposed to attend to the preaching of the prophet as Paul afterwards discovered them to be to the preaching of the apostle.
III. And so we come to THE REAL REASON OF THE STUBBORNESS. It is something which lies in universal sinful human nature, apart from any special defects or special excellences. The stubbornness may sometimes suddenly vanish where we should expect it to continue, and where we should expect it to vanish it may not only continue but become to all appearance invincible. The heart of unbelief is found in every rank. The experience of Jesus would seem to have been that the poor and the foolish, as Jeremiah would have classified them, were more ready to turn to him than the great. An excellent commentary on the passage we have been considering is to be found in the first and second chapters of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.
WEB: O Yahweh, don't your eyes look on truth? You have stricken them, but they were not grieved. You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than a rock. They have refused to return.